Turkey to take Saudi Arabia to WTO over informal trade boycott

Turkey is set to complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods, the Middle East Eye said on Tuesday, citing two Turkish officials.

The WTO’s official agenda shows that Turkey will take the issue to the Goods Council meeting on Wednesday, citing “Saudi Arabia’s trade restrictive policies and practices”, the Middle East Eye reported.

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia remain fraught after a political crisis between the two countries erupted over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. That prompted Saudi business groups including the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry to call for a boycott on Turkish products.

In October, the Saudi authorities urged citizens to boycott Turkish economic sectors ranging from imports and investments to tourism, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused some Gulf countries of destabilising policies in the region.

WTO rules allow Turkey to ask for compensation for recorded losses if it can show valid evidence of “unwarranted Saudi tactics against its businesses”, the Middle East Eye said.

However, Riyadh has not officially declared a boycott against Turkish goods or accepted that one is in place, it said.

“Whenever we bring up the issue, they convey some excuses and deny that there is any boycott against Turkish exporters,” one senior Turkish official said, according to the news website.

“Our repeated attempts to remedy the situations didn’t go anywhere. That’s why we decided to take it to the WTO.”

Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia dropped by an annual 92 percent to $21 million in February, the Middle East Eye said, citing Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) data. The exports also fell by 92 percent in January, it said.